iPhone for Nerds

Remember my rant from January about how Nokia sucks? I was basically really upset about the fact that Apple could enter the phone business with something as cool as iPhone when Nokia and others have been making these really crappy phones for decades. Well, couple a weeks ago I got a new phone; Nokia N95.

Two Alike

There are not so many real competitors for the iPhone. By real competitor I mean a phone that could be seriously thought as an “iPod-killer”, a multimedia (video, imaging) device and a smartphone with good networking capabilities. Nokia N95 is definitely one of those few devices. While it doesn’t have a pretty UI like the iPhone, it does, however, pack an impressive feature set that outperforms iPhone in many areas.

Much of the criticism against the iPhone is about its price. Compared to N95, iPhone seems almost cheap. Well, almost. The less expensive iPhone is yours for $500 bucks. The high-end model sets you back $600. And Nokia N95? It’s around \$750. That’s sevenhundredandfifty dollars — for a phone. So please, iPhone is not the only expensive phone on the market.

(For the record, I’m not that rich. In Finland you can get a N95 with a two year contract for zero euros. I love contracts 🙂

In addition to rich feature set and high price point, these phones do have at least a one more thing in common: their battery life is ridiculously low. Of course, no one knows exactly how long the battery will last on the iPhone, but it is obvious that during intensive use it’s not going to be days but hours. And when it’s not days, it pretty much means that you must charge it every single day. Which sucks big time.

Nokia N95 In A Nutshell

  • 2.6″ screen (320×240)
  • 160 Mb onboard memory, support for up to 4 Gb microSD card
  • Dedicated keys for controlling media playback
  • Really Good 5 Mpix camera
  • Wlan, 3G (UMTS)
  • Built in GPS (with Nokia Maps)
  • Runs on Series 60 3rd Edition FeaturePack 1

For a nerd, the most significant differences to iPhone (other than the UI, of course) are N95s better connectivity features, built in GPS and the fact that Series 60 platform is absolutely great for hacking. (And there are lots of free and open source software available. Real software.)

By the way, the Safari browser on iPhone is using the same open source Webkit-engine that is powering Series 60 browser too.

Mobile Hacking

Apple issued a press release earlier this month stating that “evolutionary iPhone™ will run applications created with Web 2.0 Internet standards”. Yippee! So, for iPhone you can build shitt.. err. shiny interfaces on web applications and link phone numbers from them. (Want to know a Big Secret? href="tel:+5551234"). Man, that’s so cool! Or at least it was back in 2000.

I really don’t know which puts me off more; Nokia and others making really bad UIs and half-baked software on top of a decent operating system, or Apple making uber cool “runs on OS X” iPhone and crippling it with no SDK.

Series 60 phones have their downsides, but for developers the platform is wide open. In addition of dozens of open source programs that you can learn from, there are things like Python for Series 60 that lower the barrier for mobile development significantly. Furthermore, projects like Apache 2 port for Series 60 have opened amazing possibilities of which almost none have been explored yet.

Nokia alone has many other cool open source projects running and there are lots of people working on all sorts of cool hacks. (For example the RaccoonOnMap, which is a Mobile Web Server and Google Maps mashup that puts your phone on a map).

Getting a developer certificate for Series 60 3rd edition is, albeit free, a bit pain in the butt. But now that I have one (after few hours of installing stupid win-only software on Virtual PC and fighting trough the registration process), I’ll definitely try some Python hacking on my N95. I still think it’s a shame that you cannot do anything like this on an iPhone. Sure, it’s a smartphone “for the rest of us”, but if it really runs OS X, why not open it up for developers?

Until that happens, I guess the N95 is the iPhone for nerds.

Nokia Sucks

In May I wrote about running Django on a mobile phone. That was in theory. But, after todays Macworld Keynote, turns out that soon you can do it for real.

Apple’s new iPhone runs on OS X. That means it can run Python. And that means that it can run Django, too. How cool is that! By the way, Nokia being Finnish company, our crown jewl, Finns tend to follow the mobile trends quite actively. In Finland a very large percentage of phones are sold withouth a contract so we’re used to high prices too. For example, I paid 720 euros (about $860) for my Nokia N93, about a week after it was published (now it costs about 600 euros). Compared to iPhone, selling $499 and $599 with two year contract in US, my relatively new Nokia seems now like totally useless piece of crap. Sure, it’s not any less good today than it was yesterday, but after seeing what Apples first mobile phone can do, I’m ashamed of being a Finn.

I mean, come on! Nokia has been developing nothing but mobile phones (and other technology involving mobile communication) for more than a decade, and the best that they can do is what? N95? Oh my. Need to go to sauna. Now.

Update: Turns out that my odd desire to run Django on a mobile phone doesn’t happen with iPhone, either. You cannot install or make your own apps for it. Which sucks. Need to go to sauna. Again.

Use The Tools, Luke!

I’m sometimes amazed how little people pay attention to the tools they’re using. This applies to many aspects of life, but especially well for IT-work.

I switched to Macs couple years ago. I did it mainly because I noticed that my productivity kept deteriorating with Windows. Fairly soon after the switch I felt the joy of workin again — thanks to the new (and right) tools. After that I’ve been actively monitoring my work habbits and trying to shake off any old and worn ones that might need some re-thinking.

For example, Macromedia Dreamweaver was one of my most precious tools for basic Web publishing for a long time. And I mean a long time. Everything worked quite nicely with it so I just got used to fixing its not so good code and to its other annoyances after a while. Eventually I bumped into TextMate and asked myself “why couldn’t I just use TM and some small ssh/ftp-client instead of DW?”. Well, turns out I did. I sold my DW license (which is hundreds of euros) and bought a TM license for 39 euros. I’ve been happy ever since.

So what’s the lesson here? Go and buy a Mac and live happily ever after? No. The lesson is that you should always use the right tools for the job in hand. You should also be aware what is happening elsewhere. Don’t get stuck with that familiar environment. Explore and experiment! 🙂 By using right tools you’ll be more happy and more productive. It’s Good Karma.

PS. TextMate really is an awesome text editor. This post was inspired by this recent screencast. No wonder why almost every Rails and Django screencasts have so familiar looking editors.